The not-so-subtle exclamation had issued from the distinctly malodorous man behind me. I didn’t bother to turn around this time. He had been huffing and grumbling at every delay since we’d started our procession up the narrow hallway, nearly half an hour ago.

“Oh dear, we’re holding up the line, Imogen,” one of the blue haired, elderly women responsible for the sudden halt looked back apologetically. Her long, beaky nose almost poked me in the chest.

I smiled, “Can I give you a hand with your luggage?”

“Thank you,” her pale eyes looked up at me gratefully. I could count five burst capillaries. “What a gentleman you are. I’m Violet, and this here’s Imogen.”

“Nick,” I picked up her heaviest looking suitcase and followed the slow-moving pair into their sleeping quarters.

“Oh, it’s a bit cramped, Imogen. Do you think we ought to have paid for the bigger room?” Violet stood with her kyphotic back to me.

Her companion, busily stowing luggage, seemed not to hear.

“Maybe I’ll have a word with the captain,” she pursed her lips in apparent consideration.

Not particularly keen to stay in the heavily perfumed space any longer, I cleared my throat, “Where should I put your bag, ma’am?”

Violet turned with a start, as though she’d forgotten all about my being there.

“On the bed is fine, dear. Thank you,” she reached into her purse, “and please, take this for your trouble.” In her bony hand was a crisply folded five-dollar bill.

I shook my head, “it was no trouble. Have a nice evening, ladies.”

Back in the hallway, Violet, in her shrill voice, was telling an apparently deaf Imogen how rare it was to see such manners in young people anymore.

My room was even tighter than that of the crones, having only one bed. I put my suitcase down and stretched out on the surprisingly comfortable mattress. I had never been on a cruise ship, and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of swaying. Sea-sickness had been a real concern for me when I’d purchased the discounted ticket.

In my pocket, my cell phone vibrated. I pulled it out to look at the screen. Jenny. Without checking the message, I put it back. I was pretty sure that being on a break didn’t entail late-night texting. It had been her idea after all, to, how had she put it?

“Make sure this is what we really want, what you really want, Nick.”

She had accused me of not paying her enough attention, of always seeming “distracted” when we were together. It was nonsensical. Medical school took up most of my time, between clinical rotations and studying for exams. Plus, I’d been working part time in my dad’s restaurant on top of it. I was busy, alright, building a future. One that, until now, I’d been certain included Jenny.

I yawned. It had been a long day of traveling just to get to the port. We had a three-day journey ahead of us before reaching the Alaskan coast. I turned onto my side and dozed off.

A bright flash of light woke me hours later. It was followed swiftly by a loud crack of thunder. I sat up in bed. My relief at the lack of motion earlier had been premature, apparently. The vessel was rocking heavily now, turning my stomach until I had to fight the urge to wretch.

Lighting struck again, casting an eerie purple glow about the room. My eyes fell on the illuminated doorway, and I had to stop myself from crying out. There, in a white cotton nightdress, wearing a grotesque smile, was Imogen. She was just staring at me. Then, all went dark again.

I fumbled for the light switch, hands shaking despite myself. By the time I’d found it, she was gone. I’d have contented myself that it was just a weird dream doubtlessly, if I’d not heard the bloodcurdling scream seconds later.

Hastily, I sprinted into the hallway, in the direction of the noise. It sounded again, leading me up the darkened passage until I came to the stairs. When had the ship stopped rocking? I was barely conscious of the thought as I climbed up to the deck.

Emerging out into the fresh air, I saw a most unsettling sky. It was deep purple, and though thin strands of lightning shot across it at all angles, there was no rain or thunder. At first, there was no noise at all. Then, faintly, I heard singing; a beautiful, haunting sound. Leaning over the rail, I saw that we had harbored at a rocky beach. On the shore was a silhouette. It was the hygienically challenged man from the hallway. He was walking aimlessly, as if in a trance, in the direction of the strange sound. No one in their right mind would be out in this weather, and my medical brain went down the list of everything from stroke to sun-downers.

Resolving to help him if I could, I ran. When I finally caught him up, we were almost out of sight of the ship.

“Sir?” I tapped his shoulder.

Taking no notice of me, he continued to walk. Both of his pupils were dilated and I did not see him blink once. This disconcerted me.

Abruptly, the singing became louder, and I turned my attention to the beach in front of us.

Two strikingly beautiful women were dancing wildly around a blazing campfire. They were naked. My mind reeled. I couldn’t make sense of anything.

The women cackled and swayed their hips in a seductive rhythm. Their skin was as fair and flawless as porcelain. They had lilac colored irises and red-orange hair. I wasn’t even aware of having gotten closer to them.

Shaking my head as if to clear it, I backed away. None of this made any sense. It couldn’t be happening.

The other man went forward, though, and began dancing awkwardly between the women. They laughed, and, in a moment, were upon him.

They clawed and bit viciously at him, tearing great bloody chunks of flesh away from bone. I gasped. One of them looked up at me with dripping crimson lips and, catching my eye, winked. I fainted.

When I awoke the next morning, it was to find myself back in the cabin bed. Dressing quickly, I washed my face and decided to get some coffee to clear my head of the nightmare.

Up in the dining room, people were talking and moving in confused commotion. I asked a server what was the matter.

“Well I shouldn’t say, but,” he leaned in “there is a man missing. Might’ve gone overboard in the night.”

Looking over his shoulder, I saw two elderly women sitting down to breakfast. Catching my eye, Imogen winked.